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President Obama Presents Medal Of Honor To Navy SEAL Hero

Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Byers was presented with the Medal of Honor by President Obama at the White House Monday.
Carolyn Kaster
Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Byers was presented with the Medal of Honor by President Obama at the White House Monday.

For his part in an operation that rescued an American civilian who was being held hostage in Afghanistan, U.S. Navy SEAL Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Byers was presented with the Medal of Honor at the White House on Monday.

You can watch the event via White House video.

President Obama called the ceremony "a rare opportunity" for Americans to get a glimpse of the country's special operators — Byers is a member of the elite SEAL Team Six. He also noted that today's gathering might be one of the largest gatherings of special operators ever at the White House.

The president noted that several of Byers' peers and family were present for the presentation — and he noted that Byers' mother, Peggy, had one question about the event honoring her son at the White House today: "Do you think I can come?"

"Yes, Mom," Obama said as some in the room laughed. "You're allowed to come when your son gets the Medal of Honor."

The president also summarized some of Byers' career, noting that he had been on 11 overseas deployments and nine combat tours.

The events that led to today began in December of 2012, when gunmen captured Dr. Dilip Joseph — and told him, Obama recounts, "The Americans are not coming for you."

"Well, they were wrong," the president said.

The operation that saved Joseph was a fast-moving one; after his return to the U.S., he described the process to NPR, saying, "As soon as the SEALs recognized where my voice was coming from, one of them just came and laid on top of me."

That man was Byers, who killed two guards after entering the room where Joseph was held. He also disabled a third guard while protecting Joseph, allowing the rest of his team to enter the room safely. Just before he entered the room, a fellow SEAL, Petty Officer 1st Class Nicolas D. Checque, 28, had been shot and killed by the same men guarding Joseph.

Before presenting Byers with the award, Obama recited the SEALs ethos, which refers to "a special breed of warrior ready to answer our Nation's call."

"Senior Chief Edward Byers Jr. is such a man," Obama said. "Chief Petty Officer Nicolas Checque was that man."

"People may not always see them, we may not always hear of their success, but they are there in the thick of the fight, in the dark of night, achieving their mission," Obama later added, before delivering the commendation for Byers.

Byers is the sixth Navy SEAL to receive the Medal of Honor; he's the 11th living service member to be awarded the commendation for their actions in Afghanistan.

From the Navy's biography of Byers:

"Byers, a native of Toledo, Ohio, joined the Navy in September 1998. After graduating from Hospital Corpsman School at Great Lakes, he completed the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL course and the Special Operations Combat Medic course in 2003.

"He completed tours at Great Lakes Naval Hospital, 2nd Battalion and 2nd Marine Regiment at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, was assigned to East Coast SEAL teams and completed eight overseas deployments with seven combat tours.

"Byers is also the recipient of the Bronze Star Medal with Combat 'V' device, two awards of the Purple Heart, the Joint Service Commendation Medal with Valor device, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Combat 'V' device, two additional awards of the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, two awards of the Combat Action Ribbon, three Presidential Unit Citations, two Joint Meritorious Unit Awards, two Navy Unit Commendations, and five Good Conduct Medals."

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.